Pics: Venu Hosabettu
Mangalore: They are the cop’s cops. When the regular police runs out of steam, they are the ones to whom the state turns to for help. They are the Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP). A low-profile - but high power – police force whose job is to always be on stand-by, should the situation go horribly wrong. “Unlike the regular police who need to actively interact with the public and remain friendly, we are an aggressive force with striking capability,” explains S. Ramdas Gowda, the soft spoken commandant of KSRP 7th Battalion, which is stationed at Konaje.
Indeed the KSRP are a feared lot. They are invoked only rarely, like when having to put down a riot. Those who have encountered them during such times will not forget their merciless lathi blows. In fact many of the high profile police jobs that make media headlines happen, courtesy the KSRP. It is their men who work behind the scenes to knock down terrorists, diffuse bombs or quell a riotous mob.
The genesis of Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP) goes back to the year 1956. Following the reorganization of states on November 1, 1956, the areas comprising of the present Bidar, Gulbarga and Raichur districts of Hyderabad state were transferred to Mysore state and at that time three companies of Hyderabad State Reserve Police (HSRP) were allotted to Mysore state.
To meet the internal requirements of the state, the government in the year 1958 added two more companies to form the Mysore State Reserve Police. After the Mysore state was renamed as Karnataka State, the force was rechristened as Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP). In order to have adequate striking force at all times for meeting the demands at short notice, the state Government has subsequently raised additional battalions. At present, KSRP has 4 Battalions at Bangalore, 1 Battalion each at Mysore, Belgaum, Gulbarga, Mangalore, Shimoga, Shiggao, Hassan and 1 India Reserve Battalion at Koppal. Each Battalion consists of 7 companies including around 1000 officers and men. 7th KSRP Battalion based at Mangalore started functioning in 1993.
KSRP Mangalore Headquarters
Commandant Ramadas Gowda
“The history of Karnataka State Reserve Police for the last 50 years is a saga of hard work, courage, sacrifice and success,” says Gowda. KSRP has done yeoman public service in maintaining law and order, preventing smuggling of forest produce to the neighbouring states, controlling the depredations of Veerappan and his gang members, protecting the vulnerable dams and curbing of Naxalite activities in the state.
KSRP has also been deployed to perform special duties during critical situations in other parts of the country. Following are some of our notable assignments like Goa action during 1960-61, Nagaland border duty during 1962-65, NEFA border duties in 1965 and Telanagana agitation in 1969. The KSRP Platoons / Companies have been sent to various other states including Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Haryana, Gujarat etc. for special duties.
The KSRP personnel are well trained in Bomb Detection & Disposal, Weapon Tactics & Map Reading, VIP Security, Police Commando Instructors Course, Left Wing Extremists, Anti-Terrorists, Anti-Hijacking & Anti-Extremists Tactics, Mob Dispersal Course, Trainers Training, ITBP Rock Climbing, Counter Insurgency & Commando Course, Men Commando Course, Basic Sniffer Course.
This year, as the KSRP celebrates its Golden Jubilee, the locally stationed 7th Battalion plans to construct ‘Samudaya Bhavana’, a community hall costing nearly Rs. One Crore for the benefit of its personnel. “This project will be a new feather in the cap for 7th Battalion and will go a long way in improving the morale of the force,” says Ramdas Gowda.
The most memorable innings of Gowda’s career came in 1993, when he was asked to join the Special Task Force which had been formed to nab the dreaded bandit of MM Hills, Veerappan. Soon after he joined the STF operations, Veerappan launched one of his most notorious attacks when he ambushed and blew up an entire bus filled with policemen, forest watchers and ex-convicts who served as porters. He was one of the first police officers to reach spot. He was there within 20 minutes and was shocked to see the sheer brutality of the attack. “Veerappan had planted 16 gelatin sticks and the explosion left a crater three feet deep. The explosion had ripped the bus apart and there were mangled bodies strewn all over. There were a total of 22 causalities,” he recalls with a shudder.
Why was it so difficult to nab him? “Veerappan operated over a difficult terrain spanning almost 25,000 square kilometers. He was a shrewd fighter and had a natural flair for guerilla tactics,” explains Gowda, “His fighting ability was akin to that of an army lieutenant. He took good care of his comrades and enjoyed their loyalty.” Gowda returned to the STF in 2001 and served till the bandit met his waterloo in 2004. A stressful chapter had come to end and his family naturally heaved a sigh of relief. “This period of my career was the most traumatic for my family who had to endure looming fear that something untoward might happen to me. In fact my wife suffered two miscarriages due to the prevailing tension and when we got news that Veerappan was killed, my family was jubilant and had a cake celebration. We all went to see his body as though it was a pilgrimage, a befitting end to a bad chapter.” This year the state government recognized his services with a Chief Ministers’ Gold Medal.
The KSRP’s present challenge is in curbing the Naxalite movement. Gowda, who has served a year and a half in the Anti Naxal Force (ANF), says the Naxal movement is in its infancy and can be curbed with effective police action. “There are hardly two dozen members in their movement and most of them are not hardcore,” he says.
KSRP’s present woe is the tendency to be called in for petty jobs. “We are a tough lot and we should be considered like a paramilitary force. Today we are used like salt and pepper and that’s damaging to our morale.” Hopefully, the government will wake up to his appeal and enable KSRP to revert to its position as an elite police force.